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Entries in Cost & Utilization (91)

Friday
Sep202019

Health Plan Medical Ratio and Administrative Expense Snapshots

by Clive Riddle, September 20, 2019

Two reports on health plan performance were released this week:  Mark Farrah Associates issued an analysis brief providing insights into mid-year profitability for commercial and government lines of health insurance business entitled: Health Insurance Segment Mid-Year 2019 Profitability; and Sherlock Company's September 2019 Plan Management Navigator summarized cost trends among Medicare-focused plans.

Key findings from the Mark Farrah report on health plan profitability include:

  • At the end of second quarter 2019, the average medical expense ratio for the Individual segment was 73.9%, as compared to 69.0% the previous year.
  • Growth in medical expenses pushed the average medical expense ratio for the Employer-Group segment up to 81.4% for 2Q19 from 80.5% in 2Q18.
  • For Medicare Advantage, premium growth outpaced increases in medical expenses pushing the medical expense ratio down to 84.7% from 85.5% in 2Q18.
  • An increase of 9.7% in medical expenses per member per month pushed the medical expense ratio for Managed Medicaid up to 92.0% from 88.8% in 2Q18.

Their report concludes “at mid-year 2019, all four health care segments are signifying reduced levels of profitability for health insurers over 2018.  Due to the minimum MLR constraints placed upon the individual segment, the stagnation of premium growth along with the rise in the mid-year med expense rations is not surprising, especially after the underwriting gains reaped in 2018.”

While Mark Farah Associates focused on profitability driven by medical expenses, Sherlock Company reported on administrative expenses and found that “for 2018, Medicare-focused plans experienced administrative cost growth, excluding Miscellaneous Business Taxes, of 6.4%. Account and Membership Administration [expenses were] also trending higher in 2018 at 7.0%, up from last year’s increase of 3.7%.

For Medicare-focused plans, they found “High cost Medicare Advantage grew at a median rate of 4.1%, Medicare SNP grew at a median rate of 5.7%, while low cost Medicaid increased at a median rate of 1.1%. The Commercial Insured product membership fell by a median rate of 2.1%, while Commercial ASO grew at a median rate of 3.5%. Overall, commercial membership decreased by 1.9%. Comprehensive membership in continuous plans fell by a median rate of 1.5%.

Friday
Sep202019

Health Plan Medicare Ratio and Administrative Expense Snapshots

by Clive Riddle, September 20, 2019

Two reports on health plan performance were released this week:  Mark Farrah Associates issued an analysis brief providing insights into mid-year profitability for commercial and government lines of health insurance business entitled: Health Insurance Segment Mid-Year 2019 Profitability; and Sherlock Company's September 2019 Plan Management Navigator summarized cost trends among Medicare-focused plans.

Key findings from the Mark Farrah report on health plan profitability include:

  • At the end of second quarter 2019, the average medical expense ratio for the Individual segment was 73.9%, as compared to 69.0% the previous year.
  • Growth in medical expenses pushed the average medical expense ratio for the Employer-Group segment up to 81.4% for 2Q19 from 80.5% in 2Q18.
  • For Medicare Advantage, premium growth outpaced increases in medical expenses pushing the medical expense ratio down to 84.7% from 85.5% in 2Q18.
  • An increase of 9.7% in medical expenses per member per month pushed the medical expense ratio for Managed Medicaid up to 92.0% from 88.8% in 2Q18.

Their report concludes “at mid-year 2019, all four health care segments are signifying reduced levels of profitability for health insurers over 2018.  Due to the minimum MLR constraints placed upon the individual segment, the stagnation of premium growth along with the rise in the mid-year med expense rations is not surprising, especially after the underwriting gains reaped in 2018.”

While Mark Farah Associates focused on profitability driven by medical expenses, Sherlock Company reported on administrative expenses and found that “for 2018, Medicare-focused plans experienced administrative cost growth, excluding Miscellaneous Business Taxes, of 6.4%. Account and Membership Administration [expenses were] also trending higher in 2018 at 7.0%, up from last year’s increase of 3.7%.

For Medicare-focused plans, they found “High cost Medicare Advantage grew at a median rate of 4.1%, Medicare SNP grew at a median rate of 5.7%, while low cost Medicaid increased at a median rate of 1.1%. The Commercial Insured product membership fell by a median rate of 2.1%, while Commercial ASO grew at a median rate of 3.5%. Overall, commercial membership decreased by 1.9%. Comprehensive membership in continuous plans fell by a median rate of 1.5%.

Friday
Jun212019

Ten Takeaways From PwC’s Medical Cost Trend Behind The Numbers 2020

By Clive Riddle, June 21, 2019 

PwC's Health Research Institute has just released their 14th annual report on medical cost trends: Medical cost trend: Behind the numbers 2020, which projects the 2020 trend to be a six percent cost increase. As PwC's HRI describes their 47-page report, they project "the growth of private medical costs in the coming year and identifies the leading trend drivers.... based on the best available information through June 2019. HRI conducted 55 interviews from February through June 2019 with health industry executives, health benefits experts and health plan actuaries whose companies cover more than 95 million employer sponsored large group members about their estimates for 2020 and the factors driving those trends. Also included are findings from PwC’s 2019 Health and Well-being Touchstone Survey of more than 550 employers from 37 industries as well as PwC HRI’s national consumer survey of 2,500 US adults."

Here’s Ten Takeaways from their 2020 report: 

  1. Small Uptick: The Medical Cost trend, still rounding to double digits in 2007 (11.9%) and 2008 (9.9%), trended downwards subsequently, to round to six percent since 2016 (6.2%), but have ticked up since the low-water mark of 5.5% in 2017 (and 5.7% in 2018-2019.)
  2. Price, Not Utilization: “Prices have been a larger component of employer benefit costs than utilization since 2004; utilization has hovered around zero percent growth since 2006. Utilization by individuals with employer-based insurance decreased by 0.2 percent from 2013 to 2017 while prices rose 17 percent during that time.”
  3. Impact of High Deductibles: “Average deductibles for employer-sponsored plans tripled between 2008 and 2018. This increase likely has led to a low utilization trend because employees are delaying or forgoing care due to their deductible.”
  4. Stall in HDHP Growth: “The shift to HDHPs by employers seems to have stalled. With 84 percent of employers offering an HDHP option in 2019 and a tight labor market, employers may not be as quick to push HDHPs in 2020.
  5. Acceleration in Retail Rx Spending: “Starting in 2020, retail prescription drug spending growth for private health insurance will begin to increase, hitting between 3 percent and 6 percent annually through 2027.24 The growth in spending can be attributed to the waning impact of generics on the market and the introduction of new drugs.”
  6. Specialty Drug Million Dollar Drugs Pipeline: The portion of total retail drug spending on specialty drugs continues to grow. “We are at an inflection point with drugs in the pipeline. We thought hep C was expensive at nearly $100,000 per treatment. Many drugs in the pipeline are life-altering and come with a price tag of $1 million to $2 million per treatment.”
  7. Growth in Chronic Disease Spending: "Spending by employers on individuals with chronic diseases is nearly quadruple [3.5x] that of healthy individuals while spending on individuals with complex chronic diseases is eight times higher" [8.2x].
  8. Growth in Onsite Clinics: “38 percent of large employers offered an onsite health clinic in 2019, up from the 27 percent that offered a clinic in 2014. An additional 13 percent said they were considering adding one.”
  9. Telehealth Potential: “49 percent of consumers with employer coverage said they are willing to use telehealth in place of an in-person visit.”
  10. Underutilized Wellness and Prevention programs: “For decades, employers have invested in health and wellness and prevention, yet participation remains low.....The small population of employees who participate in their employers’ health and wellness programs generally believe the programs have had a positive impact on their health.”

 

Friday
Dec072018

Premium and Deductible Cost Sharing: A Dozen Key Findings from the Commonwealth Fund

by Clive Riddle, December 7, 2018 

CMS has just touted the National Health Expenditure growth of 3.9% for 2017 is at historic low levels, with the Office of the Actuary stating “prior to the coverage expansions and temporary high growth in prescription drug spending during that same period, health spending was growing at historically low rates. In 2017, health care spending growth returned to these lower rates and the health spending share of GDP stabilized for the first time since 2013.” 

Meanwhile, The Commonwealth Fund paints a different picture from another perspective, and has just released a 21-page DataBrief: The Cost of Employer Insurance Is a Growing Burden for Middle Income Families, with lead author Sara Collins commenting “The cost of employer health insurance premiums and deductibles continues to outpace growth in workers’ wages. This is concerning, because it may put both coverage and health care out of reach for people who need it most — people with low incomes and those with health problems. Policies that would reduce health care burdens on employees include fixing the Affordable Care Act’s family coverage glitch, requiring employers to exclude some services from the deductible, and increasing the required minimum value of employer plans.” 

The Commonwealth Fund tells us their study uses “the latest data from the federal Medical Expenditure Panel Survey–Insurance Component (MEPS–IC) to examine trends in employer premiums at the state level to see how much workers and their families are paying for their employer coverage in terms of premium contributions and deductibles. We examine the size of these costs relative to income for those at the midrange of income distribution.” 

Here’s a dozen key findings: 

  1. Average employee premium contributions for single and family plans amounted to nearly 7 percent of U.S. median income in 2017, up from 5 percent in 2008. 
  2. In 11 states (Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas), premium contributions were 8 percent of median income or more, with a high of 10.2 percent in Louisiana.
  3. Premium and deductible costs amounted to nearly 12 percent of median income in 2017. Added together, the total cost of premiums to workers and potential spending on deductibles for both single and family policies climbed to $7,240 a year in 2017. 
  4. This combined cost ranged from a low of $4,664 in Hawaii to a high of more than $8,000 in eight states (Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia). 
  5. In two states, Mississippi and Louisiana, these combined costs rose to 15 percent or more of median income.
  6. Premiums for employer health plans rose sharply in nearly every state in 2017. After climbing modestly between 2011 and 2016, overall premiums for employer health plans (employer and employee share) grew more sharply in 2017, by 4.4 percent for single plans and 5.5 percent for family plans. 
  7. Annual single person premiums rose above $7,000 in eight states (Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Wyoming) and family premiums were $20,000 or higher in seven states (Alaska, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia, Wyoming) and the District of Columbia. 
  8. Average premiums for families increased overall in 44 states and the District of Columbia.
  9. As employer premiums have risen, so have workers’ contributions. Between 2016 and 2017, employee premium contributions rose by 6.8 percent to $1,415 for single-person plans and by 5.3 percent to $5,218 for family plans.
  10. Contributions for single plans increased in 32 states, ranging from a low of $675 in Hawaii to a high of $1,747 in Massachusetts. 
  11. Contributions for family plans rose in 35 states and the District of Columbia, with the lowest increase in Michigan ($3,646) and the highest in Delaware ($6,533).
  12. The average deductible for single policies rose to $1,808 in 2017, a 6.6 percent increase. Average deductibles rose in 35 states and the District of Columbia, ranging from a low of $863 in Hawaii to a high of about $2,300 in Maine and New Hampshire.

 

Friday
Oct262018

Two Reports on Cost Driven Deferred Medical Care

By Clive Riddle

Two reports were published this week on deferred medical care driven by cost considerations, based on survey findings. Earnin’s report: Waiting to Feel Better: Survey Reveals Cost Delays Timely Care is based on two surveys – a commissioned online Harris Poll among over 2,000 U.S. adults and an Earnin poll of their users, “many of which live paycheck to paycheck.” AccessOne’s report: AccessOne Patient Finance Survey- Analysis on how healthcare costs impact is based on a survey conducted by ORC International of 693 people with at least $35,000 in annual household income, weighted by age, sex, geographic region, race and education.

Earnin tells that 54% of Americans “have delayed medical care for themselves in the past 12 months because they could not afford it, “ with the top three most delayed types of care being dental/orthodontic work (55%), eye care (43%), and annual exams (30%.) Earnin reports that “23 percen) have put off getting medical care for more than one year because they could not afford it. Among those whose household is living paycheck to paycheck or not making enough to get by, the rate of this extremely delayed care averages 36 percent. Nearly half of Americans (49 percent) say their health tends to take a back seat to other financial obligations.”

 

AccessOne reports that “Twenty-seven percent of households with children are likely to delay care because they can’t afford to pay for it.” Focusing on the dollar amounts involved and financing issues, they tell us that
  • 21% of families who had trouble paying their medical bill reported that their accounts had been sent to collections.
  • More than half of respondents were concerned about their ability to pay a medical bill of less than $1,000; with 35 percent being concerned about paying a bill that totals less than $500 – 20 times less than the average healthcare balance of a person in the U.S.
  • Only 21 percent of respondents said their healthcare providers have spoken to them about available patient financing options in the past two years.
  • Fifty-five percent of those surveyed said they prefer to discuss healthcare costs and financing options before care of service is delivered.
  • Fifty-four percent of those surveyed said they would use a no-interest financing option for a balance of $1,000 or less, and 57 percent said availability of a no-interest finance option is important or very important in evaluating a provider.
So if the AccessOne report implications bear out that improving financing options up front will reduce deferred medical care, the question is, will our younger generations that have had to assume much greater overall burden of college debt, also assume a growing burden of medical debt?